Sunday, September 11, 2005

Two Thousand One, Nine Eleven

Millions of Americans will today commemorate the fourth anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks.

British police officers will form an honour guard for victims’ families at a service near New York’s World Trade Center site to remember the 67 Britons who perished.

US president George Bush drew parallels between the suicide hijackings and the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina, praising the resolve of the American people.

He said that, once again, four years later, the US was confronting another disaster but that, once again, it would recover and rebuild.

“The despair and tragedy of (September 11, 2001) were overcome by displays of selflessness, courage and compassion,” he said in a radio address to the nation.

“In the days and weeks that followed, America answered history’s call to bring justice to our enemies and to ensure the survival and success of liberty, and that mission continues today.”

The British victims will be represented by 67 British officers at Old Slip Park in downtown Manhattan.

A cappella choir Oxford Alternatives will play a musical tribute.

Also performing at the concert will be Welsh soprano Rachel Schutz.

Bells will toll at the main ceremony at Ground Zero, which begins just before 8.46am local time (1.46pm Irish time) – when the first tower was hit.

During the day the siblings of those killed will read through victims’ names.

The sombre ceremony will pause four times – marking when each plane hit the towers and when each tower fell.

While the names are read, family members will be able to descend the ramp to the lowest level of the site, where they will lay flowers.

At sunset, the Tribute in Light – twin skyward aimed spotlights – will return for one night, rising from ground zero into the night in memory of those lost.

A small church that became the focus of support for rescue workers will be inaugurated into the Coventry Community of the Cross of Nails.

St Paul’s Chapel, which is opposite Ground Zero, will become the latest member of the world-famous peace and reconciliation organisation, borne out of the devastating Luftwaffe bombings in November 1940.

Dr Oliver Schuegraf, the community’s co-ordinator, and the Suffragan Bishop of Warwick, the Right Reverend John Stroyan, will make the presentation and deliver addresses at a special service in Manhattan.

“This is in recognition of the amazing support work the church offered to rescue workers at the site over the days and weeks following the destruction of the Twin Towers and the ongoing ministry they now provide in reconciliation work between Christians, Jews and Muslims,” he said.

A march and country music concert will also be held at the Pentagon where nearly 200 people lost their lives.

Defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld said it would remind people of “the sacrifices of this generation and of each previous generation”.

New York mayor Michael Bloomberg said siblings would take the lead in the main ceremony to “acknowledge the special bonds” they shared with their brothers and sisters.

For those who want to see the full list of victims and other aspects of the memorial, please check this link:

If one were to be in the United States of America on 11 September, 2005, then one would witness the intensity of a nation's pain.

Though 4 years have passed, many people here are in America are still struggling with their emotions, and a profound sense of loss.

These feelings are not confined to bereaved families, or those who lost close friends, relatives,neighbours and colleagues.

It is a communal sense of loss that pervades almost every aspect of daily life.

Some people have talked of a loss of innocence.

The terrorist attacks on 11 September, 2001 made them realise how vulnerable they were to those who despise the American way of life.

It was not a comfortable thought for a nation whose people grew up believing they were safe within their own borders. Americans have much to reflect on, not least the direction their country should now take.

Some speak of vengeance, but others talk about a need for a better understanding about their place in the world.

Whatever the analysis, however, it is the human loss that still pulls at the emotions and the heart.

Nowhere is this more true than in New York, a city that lost 2,801 of its citizens in a single, dreadful day.

At one level, New York has staged a remarkable recovery over the past few years.

Life here has resumed its usual, noisy bustle.

This is city full of energy and vitality. Love it or loathe it, it is a place with a unique spirit.

"New York is back" is the simple message the city wants to send out to the world.

But for many of its people, determined to get on with their lives, emotions are still pretty raw.

There are thousands of stories of loss and sacrifice.

Almost everyone has been touched by this tragedy.

In many cases, it was pure chance whether someone lived or died. It has made it even harder for bereaved families to accept what happened.

Some New York firefighters feel uneasy about being described as heroes, but others, remembering their 343 fallen colleagues, accept the label without embarrassment.

"I saw my men going into the towers," one fire chief said. "As far as I am concerned, everyone was a hero that day."

This is a man who escaped after being buried by one of the falling towers. Many firefighters count themselves lucky to be alive, and have had to deal with the guilt of having survived when so many friends died.

The memorial ceremony at Ground Zero is appropriate for te releasing of emotions and comfort.

Perhaps it helps to talk to someone who shared a common loss, even to a stranger.

But the openness of many New Yorkers in discussing their feelings suggests a powerful sense of community, following the tragedy.

It really does feel like a city that has been brought closer together by shared grief.

It is impossible not to be affected by what you hear. You can understand why some people here feel emotionally drained.

They need to move on now, although they know they will never be able to forget what has happened.

It has become a cliché to say that 11 September has changed the United States. But like most clichés, there is more than an element of truth about it.

For many Americans, the day of the attacks was a defining moment, and their lives will never be the same again.

This poem below which was written by an unknown author shortly after the tragedy helps to describe some of the emotions and hopes felt. I felt something and I lit a special candle in remembrance of those who perished in the tragedy and uttered a prayer for those who were left behind by those gone before.

-Author unknown

Two thousand one, nine eleven

Three thousand plus arrive in heaven.
As they pass through the gate,
Thousands more appear in wait.

A bearded man with stovepipe hat
Steps forward saying, "Lets sit, lets chat."
They settle down in seats of clouds,
A man named Martin shouts out proud,"I have a dream!" and once he did
The Newcomer said, "Your dream still lives."

Groups of soldiers in blue and gray
Others in khaki, and green then say
"We're from Bull Run, Yorktown, the Maine"
The Newcomer said, "You died not in vain."

From a man on sticks one could hear
"The only thing we have to fear."
The Newcomer said, "We know the rest,
trust us sir, we've passed that test."
"Courage doesn't hide in caves
You can't bury freedom, in a grave,"

The Newcomers had heard this voice before
A distinct Yankees twang from Hyannisport shores.
A silence fell within the mist
Somehow the Newcomer knew that this
Meant time had come for her to say
What was in the hearts of the five thousand plus that day.

"Back on Earth, we wrote reports,
Watched our children play in sports
Worked our gardens, sang our songs
Went to church and clipped coupons
We smiled, we laughed, we cried, we fought
Unlike you, great we're not"

The tall man in the stovepipe hat
Stood and said, "Don't talk like that!
Look at your country, look and see
You died for freedom, just like me"

Then, before them all appeared a scene
Of rubbled streets and twisted beams
Death, destruction, smoke and dust
And people working just 'cause they must
Hauling ash, lifting stones,
Knee deep in hell, but not alone
"Look! Blackman, Whiteman, Brownman, Yellowman
Side by side helping their fellow man!"
So said Martin, as he watched the scene
"Even from nightmares, can be born a dream."

Down below three firemen raised
The colors high into ashen haze
The soldiers above had seen it before
On Iwo Jima back in '44

The man on sticks studied everything closely
Then shared his perceptions on what he saw mostly
"I see pain, I see 20 tears,
I see sorrow - but I don't see fear."

"You left behind husbands and wives
Daughters and sons and so many lives
are suffering now because of this wrong
But look very closely. You're not really gone.
All of those people, even those who've never met you
All of their lives, they'll never forget you
Don't you see what has happened?
Don't you see what you've done?
You've brought them together as one.”

With that the man in the stovepipe hat said
"Take my hand," and from there he led
three thousand plus heroes, Newcomers to heaven
On this day, two thousand one, nine eleven.

What are you feeling this day on September 11?


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